Microsoft MVP Award 2018-2019

I received the Microsoft MVP Award 2018-2019

While on vacation I received some excellent news. I received the Microsoft MVP Award 2018-2019. I’m an Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in the Cloud & Datacenter expertise for another year!

Dear Didier Van Hoye,
We’re once again pleased to present you with the 2018-2019 Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in recognition of your exceptional technical community leadership. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in the following technical communities during the past year:

  • Cloud and Datacenter Management

Image result for microsoft mvp award

It’s a moment of appreciation of our work in the global community. I feel both proud an humble to be part of this select group of experts chosen to be recognized by Microsoft and be awarded the Microsoft MVP Award 2018-2019. Basically it puts a smile on my face.

What does this mean?

I have another year to look forward to as a Microsoft MVP. I’ll be sharing, teaching, discussing, designing and implementing the best possible solutions. I blog, write articles, engage in webinars and speak at conferences. I also help out fellow IT professionals and MVPs when and where possible. The community exist because we contribute, not just take. But I do know I can ask for help when I need it. A big thank you to all Microsoft employees I engage with. Your patience and willingness to listen to us, even when it might be “constructive feedback” and not always praise, helps us all. I appreciate the opportunity. One very nice success this year of such collaboration was to get ReFS support extended to many more use cases.

Every year I try to make it too some of the best and most interesting conferences to learn, exchange experiences, discuss and share knowledge as both a presenter and attendee. That take a bite out of my personal time budget and sometimes even my financial budget. Both of those have limits. But that is the investment I make in myself and the community. You cannot solely depend on your employer or job for your professional advancement. They have different agendas that don’t always align.  To broaden you horizon, prevent tunnel vision and (deadly) echo chambers you need to step out of your workplace cocoon. Luckily I’m blessed with the opportunity to attend & speak at conferences where travel and expenses get paid by the organizers.  That helps a lot.

Thank you for reading, for attending my sessions, for listening to the webinars I join as a subject matter expert. You help me be a better me. Being an MVP allows me to interact with very smart people around the globe. It lets me contribute to and learn from very interesting challenges and  projects. That exposure helps me grow as I help others. It allows me to provide even more well founded feedback to Microsoft. This mutual beneficial relationship is the core of community and what being a MVP is all about.

 

 

Goodbye 2017, welcome 2018!

Professional

We’re back at work for a couple of day now in 2018. Another year flew by. In 2017 we’ve been busy with letting Windows Server 2016 and Azure based solutions shine across the entire stack of compute, storage and networking. This allow various services and applications to deliver the best possible results on-premises and in the (hybrid) cloud / IAAS. In other words, pretty much what you’d expect a Microsoft Cloud & Datacenter MVP to be doing. The amount of time and money saved by having context, a goal and a plan to evolve your IT environment incrementally and keep it current cannot be ignored. It is significant.

Cloud wise, that word seems to have become whatever vendors / consultants / businesses want it to mean. Very convenient. There are (too) many ways in which cloud solutions are defined the various forms of cloud in an ever-bigger set of permutations. In the end it’s about the best possible solution for the needs at hand at the time you make the decision. Things change fast and we just try to make reasonable future proofed decisions. Sometimes that will be pure “serverless” such as Azure Function. Sometimes it is still very much some form of on-premises virtualization and anything in between. It doesn’t matter. All you need to do is support the organization to deliver what’s needed cost effectively and efficiently. In reality today, that means a lot of options are available. As long as you have a plan, don’t paint your business into a corner in any way and can manage the governance of what you’re doing it’s not too shabby. Especially not when compared too so many that are just being sold to and are just “doing” stuff in a copy / paste effort to avoid looking like they’re not on board with the buzz of “digital transformation”.

When I wear my CTO but perhaps even more the CEO/CIO/CFO role I really do like “serverless”. The big risk to manage today is the utter and gigantic lock-in this is and will remain for a while. That needs to be managed and can be managed as long as the benefits are there. Interestingly enough, many CxO still haven’t woken up to the biggest potential benefit but I almost never see mentioned. Too often people have blinders on. Whether this is due corporate inertia, political pressure or the tyranny of action driving them so seek out point solutions, it is a widely spread issue, a challenge we all face and one that will be with us for quite a while.

Anyway, the world is getting more and more mixed and diverse than ever and guiding organizations through that ever faster changing landscape is part of the job. Telling management what they need to hear over what they want to hear is part of that. Sometimes that works out well, sometimes not. The advice is always solid. But while I can lead the horse to water, I cannot make it drink. One is thing is for sure you cannot build standards, frameworks or platforms to success. Success cannot be bought either. Those are tools the manage past success more efficiently and hopefully more effectively.

Personal

My blog is still growing and, at well over 1 million views in 2017, according to my various WordPress statistics it’s doing better than ever in helping out the community at large. I’m quite happy about that. That’s what being a Microsoft MVP, a Veeam Vanguard, a Dell Community Rockstar and a Microsoft Extended Experts Team member is all about. Sharing and learning via blogging and community activities. I was able to present and attend various conferences to share experiences and knowledge. In return I got the opportunity to learn a lot and gain some insights into technical and market trends and developments. As part of those community activities I had more “practical” and “informal” strategy talks with various CIO/CTO role holders than before and that gave me a lot of insights in how businesses are dealing with IT anno 2017. It fluctuates between struggling and thriving, quite often in the same organization. My strength in those talks is that I don’t sell anything. No products, no company, not my time. It’s just a conversation based on insights, ideas and interests and community activity.

I’ve helped out a lot of colleagues & community buddies this year. That’s good. It helps look beyond the blinders of one own environment and that is always great learning experience. This helps to keep working interesting and fun while being productive. It’s a win-win situation.

Real Personal

Once in a while I raise toast to absent friends and fallen comrades. That list got a bit longer again this year as I lost my father. He had been through many personal health related challenges for many decades. That means I have taken more and longer care of my father than he did of me. That’s OK, one does what’s needed when and where needed even when one often feels that can never be enough. Life is not just about personal choices that are 100% under our own control, no matter how much people like to pretend it is. He doesn’t have to be afraid and in pain anymore. In that knowledge I have found solace. Keep in mind life is short and you don’t choose how you’ll end up. So, enjoy all your vacation days and learn to unwind once in a while. The world will keep turning despite you being out of office now and then.

Work

One thing was also a trend in 2017. More and more the recognition of my skills, value and abilities come from ever more diverse and globally dispersed directions. I can speculate on why that is, but I won’t. For now, I’m happy to know I’ve managed to stay employable. 2017 was also the year in which recruiters were more active than ever as the war for talent is on. The job market for skilled IT personnel is on fire it seems. A few recruiters did a good job by at least presenting themselves as having a clue, but many were literally so out of touch with reality it seemed that they can be replaced by AI at the current state of that technology in a heartbeat.

A few tips to all recruiters:

  • Read my Linkedin profile & blogs etc. It’s all out there. No, I’m not a Java programmer or a helpdesk jockey. The canned intros of “I read your profile and found you to be a great fit …” for a complete mismatch functions are way too often laughable and give me a very poor impression of the recruiter right from the start.
  • Give a good impression of the job role so I can evaluate quickly if it’s something I’d even consider. When that info is on the internet and you won’t share it, this is not making you look good.
  • Include a realistic minimum / maximum level of pay, secondary benefits, ability to telecommute … If that’s not even possible how can that role ever hold the status of an “opportunity of a live time” and why would I waste my time on figuring out if I’d be earning less, losing primary and/or secondary benefits. Be real people. Really, no one is looking to be worse off.
  • Don’t get mad at me if you contact me unsolicited and don’t get an answer when you don’t even have the courtesy to provide the above. I never asked you anything, remember that please. And if I do I hope I’ll be more to the point and direct I what I expect and need. I really dislike wasting my and your time.

Really, seriously, I mean this, the silly games that are way too often played are not worth my time. In a war for talent it seems this is a complete waste and indicates that the job market is (still) very much broken. Long commutes and fixed office hours that require long public transport commutes or being stuck in traffic, even in a salary or company car, are a waste of time and money. I don’t consider that a benefit. That being said, we all can hit bad times and I might need to take a pay cut, commute s long way, lose benefits etc. in my life time. But no one does this voluntarily. I have seen many of my peers grow into to better paid, interesting roles in 2017 on their own. Word of mouth & a network are key.

Looking forward to 2018

I have storage related projects, both on-premises and in the cloud or a mix of both in 2018. The combine high availability with data protection, scalability and accessibility in the best possible way I can find given the circumstances. I’m busy with strategies and mapping. By doing so I keep learning to help transition IT between the world of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Step by step. I also hope to attend and speak at 2 or 3 international conferences and learn even more form my peers.

So, goodbye 2017, welcome 2018! The new year is at our doorstep and we’ll let it in with a smile. I wish you all a great, fun, healthy and prosperous 2018.

Project management is mission critical

Project management is mission critical

Just like analysts, project managers, are to provide added value and will play a crucial role in the success or failure of a project. So when you use them you have to do it right. If not, you are adding a force multiplier to project failure. In other words you are committing self inflicted harm or sabotage.

Work, Workplace, Office, Computer, Desk, Laptop

Picture courtesy of Max Pixel – http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Computer-Work-Office-Laptop-Desk-Workplace-1515801

Say what?

The above might seem obvious. Project management is mission critical but very often project management is left to the run off in our labor pool. This gives the profession a bad name. Even worse, by association, it ruins the reputation of the people or organizations that hire or engage them. Body shopping shop and “rent a body” outfits benefit from the idea that project management is a thirteen in a dozen job that translates into overpriced meeting transcriptions and carbon fiber Outlook calendar “automation”. In reality the customer is of way better with a real good secretary and people who know how to organize a meeting.

Project management done wrong doesn’t add any value to the project. On top of that it causes expensive and annoying overhead where the death weight of the PM becomes a nuisance at best. Potentially it becomes a fatal burden.

The 3 critical skills of a project manager

People skills

People respond to you in a way that depends on you threat them. They are a mirror. If you step on them for your own agenda or to protect your billable hours it will be noted and never forgotten.

Diplomacy

Some people state that diplomacy is the fine art of telling people to go to hell and feel good about it. Well, maybe. There are two cases for diplomacy in project management when the situation or relationships are bad and cannot be fixed:

  • Neutralize saboteurs, idiots, bad politics and hidden agenda’s in the most eloquent and pleasant way possible in order not to jeopardize the final outcome of the project.
  • It’s what you do to keep the above occupied before you get rid of them if that’s an option. In that regards PMs are morphine. They make the bad elements believe things will be fine, to make sure it painless while they’re terminated.

A PM needs to fight and defend the people they work for. If you do not agree with the people you work with or cannot agree with them because they are wrong, you have to walk away. If not, you’re just there for the paycheck at the expense of others and the project.

Subject Matter Expertise

Don’t bother sending a PM that’s not a subject matter expert. It’s a waste of time, effort and money. If the PM doesn’t understand the area of expertise, can’t learn fast and doesn’t trust the team experts it will never work out. Perhaps even worse is that many times they don’t care and the subject matter is seen as the dough to be put through the generic project management cookie cutter.

It ruins moral to be led by an incompetent, uncaring PM that is unable to truly weigh the pros and cons to the benefit of the result. In such cases they are dead weight, holding back progress and ideas which results in a very predictable failure. You’ll see burn outs, depression or people who walk. in the end it all signals the same. They don’t want to or cannot deal with the crap anymore. Results do matter and in the end no one buys a journey or services. We pay for results.

Conclusion

Do it really well or cut the bullshit and get on without one, the results without a PM are always better than with a bad one. I know it’s a dog eat dog world out there and that’ just how things flow but when a dog comes to eat your lunch you don’t play victim to circumstances. You act or you perish. A quick search reveals many are having issues with project management instead of being helped by it. It doesn’t need to be that way.

How tech debt happens

Introduction

While I plan our actions to improve or add new functionality I always refer back to my “map” on where we are, where we need to go. It helps me see the terrain, the problems, challenges, obstacles, opportunities, possibilities in the grand scheme of what I call in big words my strategy & doctrine. Sometimes it’s big in time, complexity or budget and sometimes it’s a small target of opportunity that has both immediate & long term benefits. On of those targets of opportunity is to make sure that every upgrade/migration of Hyper-V workloads lands on a generation 2 virtual machines running on Windows Server  2016 Hyper-V. Seemingly unimportant, yet … when you understand how tech debt happens you’ll see it does make a difference when done with a plan.

How tech debt happens

I have witnessed tens of millions wasted over the years by organizations that fell into every tech debt trap there is. Never forget that it’s not just bad because of failed goals and added costs but also due to being stuck and missing out on opportunities. It’s astonishing to see how bad it can become. Even at organizations that like to act and profile themselves at being modern, agile and in full digital transformation mode. Look, buzz words & glossy brochure like pictures on an “infomercial” website don’t make you the real deal. Yet while I spend many words on illustrating how tech debt happens, it’s easy to sum up.

How tech debt happens

Technical debt exists because people don’t realize what it is, how it materializes and how badly it effects the organization. And for the record, not every legacy is debt just like not all redundancy is bad.

Avoiding Tech Debt

So how do you avoid getting tech debt? Well by understanding you get  into it and doing something about it! The lack of process or understanding (even worse, I rather have no process but with understanding) to the real nature, causes and effects of technical debt. This leads to decisions void of any consideration of the implications. There’s a ton of individual reasons all across the board that will create tech debt.

Business pressure

One of them is “business” pressure, the need to be seen as in charge and get things done. This “can do” attitude is a killer of improvement and competence. It leads to an environment where what sucks can’t be pin pointed because people focus on showing how good they are instead of finding and fixing what’s broken. They have to or they cant constantly answer “Can do” to every request. In short a 100% can do culture will make you fail.

The results are many. let’s look at some of them. Having ITIL and a change board that is so ridiculously heavy in overhead because it’s the blind leading the blind and serves only to have the checkbox ticked. After some time the process is simplified and automated (send in docs that no one reads but it does lead to an approval e-mail) and over a longer period of time it’s ignored. This leads to a constant barrage of last minute specification changes without a clue as to their impact.

Scope creep & scope dumping

Scope creep: non-managed changes or perhaps better worded and more realistically, changes by people with no technical clue but a lot of pressure and a desire to please other people of server other needs. There’s also the opposite, scope dumping: Ill considered scope reduction by people who need to make deadlines or avoid complexity they don’t want to deal with, often under business pressure.

Integration is still important

Lack of integration is another. Yes we all know we need to reduce plumbing in IT but the reality is that good, necessary plumbing avoids a truck load of problems. If you want to avoid spending too much time keeping the lights on you’ll need to do good plumbing to avoid flooding.

Handing over the key to the kingdom

Relying too much on consulting, external advisors. Always ask your self who they work for and why. Follow the money. The money will lead you to the one paying and than you’ll find out their politics, plans and ambitions. If these are not yours, alarm bells should
Disdain for learning, testing, hands on work. Knowledge comes from understanding and that requires doing. Doing with understanding grows skills, insight an knowledge to be effective when needed. If I want to destroy a company I send in consultants and I make sure they hire the wrong employees. It’s a long term play against my enemies where they fall for the perceived short term benefits for them. When I see a CEO that makes tens of millions and year after year you see the company do down the drain you just know they are not worth the money and their presence makes no difference what so ever. You could have gotten those results way cheaper.

The right stuff

Lack of any real functional documentation and insights is also an issue. You need to have the elements to find out how things are done quickly. That doesn’t mean 100% perfect descriptions to the smalls detail. That’s just windows dressing. Quality trumps quantity. This goes for anything, processes, documentation and people. Beckwith was right when he said “I’d rather go down the river with 7 man than with a 100 shitheads”

Incompetence floats to the top

The lack of a good command & control structure due to not having competent management is also problematic along with a lack of skills, talent & knowledge. Yup, too many Peter principle people looking out for number one will catalyze all bad things. Put the right people in the right place. Hard to do when you think you can but actually can’t … or when power play and politics are way more important than effective results. This leads to lack of collaboration in an environment where everybody survives in isolation instead of thriving  by working together. The results are a lack of maintenance, updates, migrations, rebuilds to improve current and support future needs.

Own the problems

Which brings us to the lack of ownership. Here you’ll often see that a PO or PM only is responsible on paper and doesn’t have a clue about the service. They don’t care about it, let alone about the effects on some other business unit. The deficiency in business and technological leadership, leads to avoiding responsibility. Problems are just thrown over the wall and any issues that appear are just assigned to the “incompetence” of the staff.

Conclusion

Tech Debt has many reasons and that’s why it’s hard to avoid and fix. But it can be done. But you cannot buy your way out or outsource solving the problem.